The Memory of All That: Gershwin on Ice, April 1997

Atlantic City, New Jersey
Originally posted to on May 7, 1997
by Lorrie Kim

Last month I went to see Gershwin on Ice in Atlantic City. Like the other people who have written about it here, I was impressed. I think it may have been the best-conceived ice show I've ever seen. The best thing about it was: there was just enough, not too much, of everything. The skating solos were just long enough. The musical selections, ditto. The lighting was incredibly tasteful, without being overpowering.

With the exception of Dorothy Hamill, who was the star, all of the cast members performed about equally -- no irritating hierarchy system designed to make the less qualified skaters feel insignificant. The vocal treatments of each recorded Gershwin song were wisely chosen. The narration was informative, not intrusive. The pace was excellent. It was a superbly directed piece of entertainment.

The cast, aside from Ms. Hamill:

With a cast like this, how could they go wrong?

The choreography was very smart and elegant. Most of the numbers were ensemble, and very different from the Stars on Ice ensembles I'm used to seeing. Because the stage was small, your peripheral vision could take in everything that was going on, even if you couldn't fully concentrate on it, so there were many times I had the impression of lovely whirling motion -- such as the simultaneous spins.

The choreography also made full use of the fact that these are all mature, thinking, seasoned adults. Quite a few numbers demanded character acting, and the skaters delivered. When A&E airs the show, don't miss Tiffany Chin in "An American in Paris." She plays a hilarious beatnik girl and it's just about the most wonderful thing I've ever seen. Forget Audrey Hepburn's beatnik dance in Funny Face -- Tiffany Chin is loaded, pulsing, with talent. I wasn't watching skating during her competitive years, but I am SO happy she's come back. Even in this stellar cast, she definitively stole every scene she was in. Watch her upper body and arm positions in group choreography. She really knows what she's doing.

As for other skaters: Wagenhoffer had some extremely creative spins that I'm at a loss to describe. Fadeev, at one point, did his traveling sitspins 2/3 around the small ice surface wearing a tailcoat which streamed out behind him quite effectively. Hartshorn and Sweiding had the most ice time and were a big hit with the audience. The day I was there, Kuchiki had an injury so she and Smull skated less than usual. One viewing wasn't enough for me to become familiar with Hunka, Beauregard, or Ericson, but I will say that their skating certainly held up to the others. I noticed about Grigorescu that she has remarkably smooth stroking. Lisa Marie Allen's physical presence is something else altogether, angular and funky. She and Chin both did double axels; Fadeev managed a triple toe on that small ice; Wagenhoffer did a Wagen wheel (I was told later that he sometimes pretends to stumble off the ice surface to scare his castmates).

I know it's hard to compare this small, entertainment-oriented show with the "art" of Stars on Ice or the competitiveness of TOC, or the chestnut flavor of Nutcracker on Ice. But I will go ahead and say I thought it was the best of all, because it succeeded the best on its own terms. The show perfectly blended skating with commemorating Gershwin, and there was not a single moment that screamed "pee break" or made me wonder if the producer had fallen asleep for that part. From now on I know to look for the choreography of Wagenhoffer and Grigorescu.

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